Itemizer-Observer

MONMOUTH — Stan Pulliam, the mayor of Sandy, urges businesses in his community of 10,000 people to openly defy COVID-19 restrictions and resume business as usual.

Monmouth has roughly the same population, but its leaders won’t offer the same advice, City Manager Marty Wine told the Itemizer-Observer.

“I don’t want to lose any businesses along Main Street, but Priority No. 1 is public health,” said Wine.“We are following the public health advice about the pandemic, which is real. There is a virus that is spreading around the state. It’s not just up to the city of Monmouth or a mayor to tell businesses it’s OK for them to open and operate.”

Restrictions announced by Gov. Kate Brown ban indoor restaurant dining among other business restrictions in 24 counties considered to be in extreme risk. That includes Polk County.

“Our COVID numbers, unfortunately, spiked back up after a three-week decline,” Monmouth Mayor Cec Koontz told councilors at their first meeting of the year Jan. 5.

Defiers of the restrictions often repeat false information circulating on social media. They claim COVID-19 has a death rate comparable to the seasonal flu season of 2017-2018. That’s not true. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 61,000 Americans died from the flu two years ago.

As of Monday, Johns Hopkins University reports that 375,373 Americans have died from COVID-19 — a climbing death toll that claims another life every 33 seconds.

“We have a weekly case rate of 396 cases per 100,000 people, and our test positivity rate in the last two weeks was at 8.8%,” Wine added at the Zoom meeting. “As long as we’re in that risk category, our city buildings are closed for public services.”

Even though Monmouth City Hall is closed to the public, local police officers, utility workers and public work crews remain in the field.

“Our message to the community is that our buildings might be closed, but we’re still serving you,” Wine said. “Our city hall and our library staff are still working remotely, and we’re all available by phone and by email and on call by appointment. So please call us you need us. I don’t want there to be any question that we’re still out there working for our community.”

Local police officers received a first dose of vaccines Jan. 5.

Meanwhile, Wine said, efforts continue to support local business.

“Monmouth has either allocated or granted or used all of the $405,000 that was allotted to us to help respond for the community,” she said. “We may still have a small amount of FEMA funding that may come along in a few months.”

At least 10 businesses took advantage of technical assistance available through a statewide grant, and personal protective equipment remains available for local businesses through the city, she added.

“We continue to brainstorm ways to support our business community during a time when there are still restrictions about what everybody can do,” Wine said.

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